By Smith Leong
Being the generation that will inherit the future (and the baggage) of our tiny nation, how much power do we have to effect change today?
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing shared his thoughts in response to questions on global changes and their implications on our future as a nation. Here are some excerpts of his responses that are related to an evolving job climate.
1. Be prepared for jobs to change - Singapore Perspectives 2020
Economic structures will fundamentally be quite different, and it means that the types of jobs that can be created for our own people will be quite different.
And the job creation process cannot be done overnight, because as we shift industry structures, we must also keep in mind about the jobs being displaced. And these are jobs that many of our people are working in.
500,000 Singapore workers (21% of the workforce) are expected to be displaced by 2028 (Source)
So, yes, we are looking at that, and we are thinking of how to make sure that we insulate ourselves against all these difficult problems that may come and confront us, but we can all do something to unlock that energy and carbon puzzle confronting us today.
2. How does the change look like? - Digitise ASEAN
EDB secured investment commitments creating 32,814 jobs over the next few years. (Source)
I am optimistic that Singapore’s economy remains resilient, despite a weakened global economic environment. But we will expect to see a change in the composition of jobs in the coming years.
It is true that the demand in Singapore’s key export markets has lowered as a result of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, Brexit, and political uncertainties dampening business and consumer confidence. The performance of Singapore’s outward-oriented sectors such as electronics, precision engineering and wholesale trade remained weak.
But the information and communications sector is expected to grow, given strong demand by firms for IT and digital solutions.
Digital and financial integration will help put the world on a higher growth trajectory over the next 10 to 15 years. Technology is what will enable the ASEAN market to see stronger growth. It is also an effective way for the region to overcome the adverse effects of the ongoing US-China trade war.
Majority of jobs created have thus shifted to the digital sector - it will make up close to half of the jobs created.
As ASEAN shifts to be more digitally integrated, there are abundant opportunities for Singapore companies, especially in e-commerce and its supporting digital services, such as payment solutions, fraud detection and digital marketing services. Human capital empowerment is paramount to compete in the digital era, and this involves boosting the skills of workers to avoid job losses.
3. Managing a growing Inequality - Singapore Perspectives 2020
We will define a future where the future is in our hands, and we are not beholden to others nor held ransom by others.
In the past, we were equally poor, today we are unequally rich. The challenges are no less. In the past, everybody felt they had a chance to rise to the top, and today, we still pride ourselves on this - that among all the societies we see, Singapore is probably the best place to be born, even if you don't come from a privileged background, because we have every reason to believe that we can succeed.
Singapore’s growth over 50 years (Source)
But that is not to be taken for granted. All countries, as they mature, ossify. They form groups, and after a while, there will be groups that ask themselves: "Why should I continue to support this system if I cannot get ahead in this system?"
I have one very simple vision, and that is for Singapore to defy the odds of history, to survive and thrive as a small city state without a natural hinterland. To survive and thrive where we may not have a common ancestry, race, language and religion.
That we can define our identity based on a forward-looking set of values of multiculturalism, meritocracy, incorruptibility. That we will define a future where the future is in our hands, and we are not beholden to others nor held ransom by others.
That when others ask us to jump, we don't have to only ask: "How high?"; we can ask: "Why?"
About the author
Smith is the typical Singaporean male with a not-so-typical online personality. A self-made entrepreneur with a passionate knack for lighthearted storytelling peppered with humorous undertones, his social media posts vary from food, travel, relationships and business thought pieces, all of which are endlessly fascinating to his followers of all ages.
Issues on job security always strike close to heart. The change in economic structures have long begun, and we can all feel it. We see more and more students from shrinking sectors concerned about their livelihoods, and let’s be real - entering a whole new sector is uncertain and very very intimidating. But with an open mindset and the right knowledge about options available, many have upgraded their skills and entered into new careers. All of our efforts aim to contribute to that and to make the journey as manageable as possible.